DC: I don’t think that it is resistant to innovation and change. We operate in eight countries, the US, UK, Ireland, Malta, Switzerland, Germany, Australia and Russia. The UK is I think the most organised country as far as the language travel market is concerned. English UK is very good when you compare it to similar organisations in other places.
I think that as a good competitive group of schools they are typically looking for ways to innovate and to try to bring value to the student, and they do that quite well. So I think the reason Guided E-learning has a good client list is because [EFL] is a small community and they talk to each other.
The PIE: Is e-learning being embraced across the markets in which you operate?
“Students come to the UK for a short period of time, leave, and forget a lot of what they’ve learnt”
DC: Absolutely. I would say that when we started about five years ago it was very, very new and really only the early adopters were looking into it. They wanted to be unique and didn’t want to be like everybody else. It’s pretty mainstream nowadays and so schools often feel like it’s something they should be offering to their students. But that’s a relatively recent occurrence I would say.
The PIE: Can you explain what exactly Guided E-learning offers?
DC: We offer a student services portal; it’s not just a bunch of learning materials online. What happens is a school gets our platform, it’s branded under their school brand, and then students use it to find out pretty much any information related to the school as well as for study. So for example, they will log into the site before they arrive to take a placement test and then they will get a preparation course before they arrive.
A lot of schools in the UK especially are also using it for tutorial systems for students, mainly to help with the ISI inspection [a government-approved quality assurance test for schools who want to recruit non-EU students]. They can use it to track a student’s progress and give assessments, and the site will keep a record of all of that.
The PIE: And there are follow-up services…
DC: Yes. After they leave they use it to help them maintain their English. One of the core problems with language travel is that students come to the UK for a relatively short period of time. They leave, and they forget a lot of what they’ve learnt. So having a consolidation course that follows on from their course is very useful for them.
“Students choose to travel, and they want to travel because they want immersion”
The PIE: And the platform is quite flexible?
DC: Yes. It’s a customisable platform so no two schools have exactly the same set up. What all schools want is that when a student logs in they feel they are working with the school, not an e-learning company.
The PIE: Which markets are you seeing most demand from for your services?
DC: I would say over the past year the biggest area of growth for us has been in the UK, actually. However, we’re seeing significant growth in the European market, so for instance we have new work in Russia and Belarus, Germany and Switzerland. That’s not from the language travel market, that’s from the language tuition market.
The PIE: So they access your services remotely from their home markets?